Former Black Fern Melodie Robinson previews our men's sevens Rio hopes.

It's the New Zealand sevens men's team's turn at Rio 2016 and probably the most anxious person in the side will be their coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens.

That's because, despite 22 years of consistently leading the Kiwi sevens team to success after success, he will possibly be judged on this one tournament. That seems outrageous considering the four Commonwealth Games golds, 11 World Sevens Series titles and two Sevens Rugby World Cups he's won. And, even more significant, has been the reputation he's developed around this team. You could argue that's been instrumental in Sevens rugby developing as a legitimate sport in its own right.

Sir "Titch" is everything you'd expect a high calibre coach to be - intense, detail-driven, fascinating to chat with, and slightly scary, at times. But I was interested to also see a genuine sense of betrayal from the Kiwi coach when he chatted to me about Kurt Baker's critical comments on his non-selection, post Olympic team announcement. The irony is, if Baker had kept his thoughts to himself, he might have been lacing up, come day four of the Olympics tomorrow, after injury hit the New Zealand camp.

In Baker's absence, the Kiwi team lost someone who has the personality, and history with Tietjens, to feel comfortable challenging the coach on issues other players might privately be questioning. But, thankfully, with the recent return of captain Scott Curry, the team has a leader who communicates well with his coach. Eric Rush and Karl Te Nana used to do the same thing and, while Curry might not be the guy who scores all the tries, he will be hugely important in running the direct style of game the team will be playing.


Like other media, I asked the Kiwi coach if this would be his last tournament. He said to me, "Melodie, I love sevens, it's my passion", which, loosely interpreted, means if the team does well, he may just put his name in the hat again. He's 60 years old and trains like an athlete. Physically, he can handle the travel and lifestyle. If he doesn't earn a medal, however, many believe a new regime could be put in place post-Olympics.

Another legend we won't see at the next Olympics is the affable Keith Quinn, who is commentating on his beloved sevens at, incredibly, his 10th Olympics. He's also called 110 World Rugby Sevens tournaments and is internationally recognised as New Zealand's voice of sevens. He celebrates his 70th birthday when he gets back to New Zealand and already pulled out of calling schoolboy rugby this year to "ease back a bit". We'll still hear him on the world circuit next season at least.

Quinnie and I were on the "nine o'clock bus" (which arrived late) to Deodoro Stadium on day one of the sevens. We both had to be there to set up for the 11.30am New Zealand women's game that Keith was calling. But the bloody bus driver went to the shooting, forgetting he had a busload on board going to the stadium He got back on the motorway to return to the International Broadcast Centre, where we got on 40 minutes earlier!

I panicked, jumped over all the other oblivious media and gestured madly at the driver who, conveniently, suddenly couldn't understand anything. Keith looked ill as we headed in the opposite way.

Suddenly all the passengers on the bus cottoned on we were not en route, swearing ensued, red faces - the lot.

Luckily, myself and Mike Jaspers, the NZ women's media liaison, were sitting next to a Portuguese guy who somehow managed to convince the driver to do a U-turn on the motorway.

What a debacle and not the first we've encountered in Rio regarding the transport.

I've learned a few swear words in different languages lately ...

Players to watch

Akira Ioane

: Tietjens says Ioane's the closest player he's seen to the great Jonah Lomu. His ability to run around, then over, the hapless opposition has left many teams - bar the Fijians - unable to cope.

Tim Mikkelson: He can play in the forwards and the backs, is experienced and his workrate is so high he's the one guy Tietjens will get maximum minutes out of. He's also got repetitive speed which means he shines in the dying minutes.

Sonny Bill Williams: As if we were going to pass over the most versatile athlete in the team. Because New Zealand are looking to play confrontational rugby, his offload will come into play. He's learned from a tough sevens season when to implement that weapon.